Write Your Own Op-Ed

One way you can take action for your campaign is to write or recruit an advocate to write an op-ed for your local newspaper, magazine, blog, community, or school newsletter. Look for an advocate who is credible on the topic and well-known in your community to sign your op-ed, as they will likely draw in more readers for the publication. A recognized person in the community, a person with a strong personal story, or an expert in the issue area is a good place to start.

An op-ed is a written opinion editorial published in a local, regional, or national media outlet. Sometimes it’s a personal, emotional story—other times the facts are presented straightforward. Many people like to read op-eds because community ideas are important, and they can’t get those same opinions in objective journalism. When you write about your cause publicly, you’re spreading awareness to legislators, journalists, and members of your community, giving them the chance to learn more about the issue, form their own opinions about your cause, and, ideally, take steps to get involved.

Before you get started on your own story, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Your op-ed can be either emotional or rational. It all depends on the story you want to tell. The sample emotional op-ed below is an example of a soft-sell. It encourages readers to care about what the author cares about and uses personal touches to emphasize why this is important to the signer. A hard-sell op-ed presses the urgency of the issue and uses words like, “can’t,” “refuse,” “never,” and “now.”
  • A rational introduction often includes statistics and logical explanations for why your issue is important. An example sentence for that kind of piece might sound like this: “Many people in America struggle to stay healthy. Increasing access to healthy beverages will help to fight obesity.”
  • A strong headline is concise, gives the readers a preview of what you’re going to say, and also makes them curious enough to read it.
  • You can also choose an influential signer; someone who is well known in your community and credible on the topic, like a doctor, researcher, or politician, and who can help you gain attention or earn a placement in a high-profile publication. Make sure to include the signer’s contact information—name, title, organization (if needed), e-mail, and phone number—in case the editors want to contact you/the signer.

Do you think your community is ready to learn more in an op-ed? Let’s get started by breaking down the sample emotional op-ed below.

Headline

Ex: Drink Up: Bringing Healthy Drinks to [TOWN]!

Author’s name

Ex: Stephanie Jones

It’s important to make your key points early and often so that your reader understands why this is meaningful for them.

A few decades ago, everything was different—even the way we enjoyed drinks. Back then, kids quenched their thirst with water, 100% juice, and milk. Soda came in 8-ounce containers and was a special treat. Sports drinks belonged to sweat-soaked players on the sidelines.

But things are different today. Sugary drinks are one of the largest sources of added sugar in kids’ diets. That’s a lot of calories with little nutritional value.

All those sweet drinks contribute to major health problems for our children, like increasing rates of diabetes and heart disease. And with our country already spending $190 billion per year treating these preventable diseases, we need to address the problem.

 

Where you can, be sure to include your state, town, county, or the specific community that you want to reach.

It’s going to take hard work to reverse these numbers, but it’s clear that our kids need us to make changes NOW.

Unfortunately, kids end up with sugary drinks because they are easily available and sometimes even cheaper than the alternative. Last week my daughter and I went to see a movie, and the concession stand was selling a bottle of water for $4, while its fountain soda and sugary juice drink counterpart was offered for a much more affordable $1.50. With options like that, it’s no wonder parents and kids end up choosing the unhealthy option—even when their health could be at stake. That’s no bargain!

There’s more we can do to make healthy drink options accessible in places where kids and families spend their time. Efforts that reduce consumption of sugary drinks can be part of the solution. Public health experts around the country agree that taxing drinks with added sugar has the potential to help. Making sure sugary drinks aren’t sold or served in schools will help, as well as providing healthy drinks in places that kids play, like zoos, parks, child care, and after-school programs.

It’s time we take a hard look at the extra sugar and empty calories in our kids’ cups and do all we can to help them form healthy habits to last a lifetime.

Remember to include a link at the end of your piece so that your readers know how to join your movement or create a campaign of their own.

Please join me in taking action by visiting VoicesForHealthyKids.org/Sugary-Drinks to learn how you can support initiatives aimed at reducing consumption of sugary drinks.

Keep your op-ed to 500 words max so that your important points aren’t cut during the editing process.

Word Count: 358